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Catholics Owe Unconditional Obedience Only to God Alone

by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller

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Cardinal Müller's Comments about Douglas Farrows Article on the Amazon Synod

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Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has declared his approval of a strong critique of the Amazon Synod and its working document which was published last week by Professor Douglas Farrow in First Things. While praising Farrow’s article as “very fitting,” the Cardinal went on to lament Church leaders who seem not to realize that the borders to the “old paganism” of “idolatry and superstition” are currently being crossed.

Publisher & Date

LifeSiteNews, October 22, 2019

Cardinal Müller's full statement

A very fitting article. Here [in Rome], one does not hear anything. Nothing gets released to the outside, except that there is an immense pressure placed on those who think in an orthodox and Catholic way. What a state of affairs it is that not even bishops realize when the border to the old paganism has been crossed. That is where the true “conservatives” or “arch-reactionaries” are, when one interprets these terms in the proper sense of Christ who is the fresh newness of God which cannot be surpassed.

For example, before and during the time of St. Irenaeus of Lyon – who has given to us his five books “Against Heresies” which are today again highly relevant – some allowed themselves to “be wrongly captivated by so-called Gnosis. Some who professed it, have erred and gone away from the path of the Faith” (1 Tim 6:21). Irenaeus had earlier spent some time in Rome and had fought there against the Christian-Gnostic heresies. In the 2nd century, he is the most important defender of the Roman Primacy, but that did not hinder him from personally calling upon both Pope Eleutherius and Pope Victor I to choose wiser and more just approaches.

Man is only obliged to obey God inwardly and outwardly, whereas obedience toward ecclesial and civil superiors is merely conditional with regard to their own authority for the community which they lead and for which they are to be held accountable before God. That is why it can be necessary in one's conscience to refuse to obey a concrete order, without thereby putting into question the institution of the ecclesial superiors (Thomas Aquinas, S. Th. II-II q. 104 a. 5). When St. Paul withstood St. Peter – who was hierarchically clearly his superior – to his face, it was not a correctio fraterna in the private realm, but, rather, it was a public defense of the Faith in its fullness and in light of its inward and outward consequences. Since, when it comes to the defense of the Faith, all apostles and bishops have the same responsibilities, St. Paul himself could, as an Apostle, publicly correct the Apostle St. Peter on an equal level, without thereby putting into question his office, which was entrusted to him by Christ. (Thomas Aquinas, S. Th. II-II q. 33 a. 4)

“To think that one is better than one's superior seems to be presumptuous pride. But to consider oneself better in certain respects has nothing to do with presumption, because, in this life, there is no one who does not have any deficiency at all. It should also be noted that the one who admonishes his superior in God's love does not therefore think himself higher (see Ibid, II-II q. 33 a. 4 ad 4); but, rather, he only gives help to the one who, the higher he stands, is in greater danger,' as St. Augustine (Epistle 211) says.”

Let us say only so much with regard to the current fashion of the ignorant ones to divide the Church into two camps – the enemies of the Pope and the friends of the Pope – as if the personal-private relationship with a particular Pope were the basis of the Roman Primacy with respect to the Doctrine of Faith and Morals, and given the hierarchical communio of the bishops with the Pope.

The papacy is of divine right and therefore is not based on the numbers of Facebook-Followers nor on the fickle approval of journalists and opportunists.

The clear distinction between Faith in God and paganism in St. Paul must not be bypassed: Because people “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles....they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Rom. 1:23 seq.)

The adoration of God is the true theology of liberation from fear, fright, and insecurity which come to us from the material world and our fellow men. And only with the help of the Gospel and Christ's Grace can a culture develop its positive influence and be freed from the power of evil.

Objectively, idolatry and superstition are the greatest sins of all, based on a confusion between the Creator and the creature (Thomas Aquinas, S. Th. II-II q. 94 a. 3.), which can only be surpassed by the heresy of those who have already received the true Faith through the proclamation of the Church, in contradistinction to the pagans who, without their own guilt, do not yet know the Gospel.

At St. Peter's tomb, the Catholic religion must always radiate truth and clarity, because this Apostle [Peter], in his followers (together with all the bishops and faithful), answers to the question “whom do you think I am”: “You are Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16). And this has not been given to him from a dialogue with like-minded people or with himself, but, rather, through the Revelation of the Father by the Son. The Fides Petri [the Faith of Peter] is the foundation of the Catholic Church. The Profession of Faith is not to be always reinvented, adapted at will, or reinterpreted as seems necessary. Faith is the power of the Word of God in the heart of the Church and thus not a fossil of obsolete human thought. Revelation is in Christ forever present in all its fullness in the Faith of the Church. We cannot exhaust this source until He returns at the end of time. But we must also not want to improve it through supposedly necessary human emendations. That would be the worst environmental pollution that would make our planet uninhabitable. If the Incarnate Word, Who was with God and is God, no longer were to dwell among us and within us, where would there be still any room for us?

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